The government Friday issued a seven-day ultimatum to 4,407 registered gun holders to surrender their weapons.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i warned them that upon the expiry of the notice, he will declare them “armed and dangerous”, a terminology that allows security officers to use force to disarm such persons.
This is as the government tries once again to clean up the mess at the Firearms Licensing Bureau that has for a long time allowed criminal syndicates to assist applicants to get licences by manipulating the systems and bypassing existing stringent rules.
The licence fee for a firearm is Sh2,000 and the process of getting the permit involves seven stages, including vetting. But those seeking shortcuts have been paying a facilitation fee of at least Sh200,000 to speed up the process.
As a result, incidents of gun holders brandishing guns at the slightest provocation, especially in entertainment joints, have become common.
When there is an outcry on social media, as it usually does, the gun drawers are arrested, taken to court and released on bail until they yet again find themselves in similar drama.
Some of the licensed firearm holders who have been involved in gun-related incidents in recent years include musician CMB Prezzo, politician Steve Mbogo, former Nakuru Senator Paul Njoroge, businessman Paul Kobia, lawyer Assa Nyakundi, suspected gold fraudster Kevin Obia and businessman Jimmy Wanjigi.
Last week, the High Court in Nairobi ordered the state to return seven firearms to businessman Jimmy Wanjigi. In his judgment, Justice Chacha Mwita said that the State acted irrationally by taking away the businessman’s guns while he still held a valid licence to keep them.
“The plaintiff’s rights were violated by the respondents. The actions of the respondents were unlawful and actuated by malice. The court grants orders that all firearms be returned to the plaintiff,” Justice Mwita ruled last Friday.
Mr Wanjigi was charged on March 1, 2018 with being in possession of prohibited firearms, including one shotgun and a military-grade M4 assault rifle that police said were not allowed to be in civilian hands.
But during the hearing of the case the businessman explained that the police forced themselves into his house, without a search warrant from the court, and took away his firearms.
Although the contents of a Firearms Licensing Vetting exercise report released to the Ministry of Interior yesterday are unlikely to be made public, the fact that the State could not trace 10 gun dealers and cancelled the licences of 13 others is proof of the extent of the rot in the licensing of guns.
In yet another attempt to clean up the licensing and use of private firearms, the State declared that it will no longer issue any dealership licences, claiming that the ones in operation are enough. Consequently, only 20 dealers will be allowed to sell guns.
Credible sources have told the Saturday Nation that among the dealerships whose licences have been cancelled are Force Kick Ltd, Professional Tools Ltd, Anshan Ltd, Deftech Logistics Ltd, Lexmark Ltd and Broad Walk Arms Ltd.
“With the size of our country and the situation we are in, it is not necessary to have every Tom, Dick and Harry sell guns,” said Dr Matiang’i.
“Even with those in operation, I was shocked at the stock they have. I asked myself, who are going to buy all these guns?” said the CS.
Interestingly, only 9,398 registered firearm holders turned out for the vetting announced by the government in February, representing a 70 per cent turnout. Out of these, 1,493 guns and 21,732 bullets were confiscated.
“If you are holding a fake firearm certificate, or forgot to go for vetting or maybe you did not see the notice, you should report to the nearest police station and surrender,” warned Dr Matiangi.
Although the government order looks tough on paper, executing it could prove difficult because of the existence of several other underground gun dealers who supply arms and ammunition to unscrupulous people, including businessmen, politicians and criminals.
Efforts by the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons to curb the proliferation of firearms in the past have achieved little, as more people continue to arm themselves either as a status symbol or for criminal purposes.
Furthermore, those in security circles say that by the time the government started cleaning up the Fire Arms Licensing Bureau the rot had become so severe that the files of firearm holders have similar serial numbers.